League is our top priority, says Raith boss Locke

Raith development squad new signings, Josh MacDonald and Jamie Watson with development coach Craig Easton. Copyright - Fife Photo Agency
Raith development squad new signings, Josh MacDonald and Jamie Watson with development coach Craig Easton. Copyright - Fife Photo Agency
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Raith Rovers manager Gary Locke has shaken off the Irn Bru Cup defeat in Forfar after admitting the league is his top priroity.

A depleted Raith squad was knocked out by the League Two side at the weekend, but Locke is keen to return to winning ways against Falkirk at Stark’s Park this Saturday.

“We’re disappointed to go out the competition, but I’d rather win this weekend,” Locke added.

“It’s not something I’m going to dwell on. We’re not happy to be out the competition but the priority is the league and we’ve got to make sure we bounce back on Saturday.”

Rovers are unbeaten in 15 league games stretching back into last season and hold a six-point advantage over potential promotion rivals Falkirk after four games. However, Locke is not reading anything into current league position.

“It’s still early days and Falkirk will be up there – no doubt about that,” he said. “They’ve done brilliantly the last few seasons and I fully expect them to up there again.

“They are a good side, and over the course of the season, they will show everybody just how good they are.

“It will be a difficult game for us, but it’s certainly one we’re looking forward to because we’ve started the season well and we want to keep our league form going.

“These are the games where you test yourself, and that we should be looking to win because it’s against a team that will, hopefully, be round about us.”

Locke only had 13 first team players at his disposal for the trip to Forfar, and while Jason Thomson and Jordan Thompson both return this Saturday, there are fresh injury worries over Mark Stewart (hamstring) and Jean Yves M’voto (calf).

Craig Barr had an operation on a hip injury on Wednesday and will be out of action until January at the earliest, while Scott Robertson is also out long term after undergoing surgery last week.

A knee injury is expected to keep Chris Johnston sidelined for the next few weeks, while several others, including goalkeepers Kevin Cuthbert and Aaron Lennox, are struggling.

Locke admitted he has now reached a stage where he cannot afford to lose any more players to injury.

“At the moment we’ve got eight or nine out which is not ideal because we’ve not got a huge squad,” he said.

“The board has been great – the fact we’ve managed to get another goalie in speaks volumes for the backing I’ve had – but we’re already over budget so there’s no chance of bringing anyone else in.

“We’ve just got to hope that these boys can all get fit.

“I’m hoping a couple of them will be fit to train on Thursday and then we’ll assess them after that.”

Meanwhile, Raith’s development squad gained two new recruits this week.

Jamie Watson has joined as a new apprentice while Josh MacDonald has signed amateur terms.

Both have featured throughout pre-season and have impressed enough to earn their contracts.

Jamie is a Kirkcaldy boy and went to Balwearie High School while Josh is from East Kilbride and has represented Scotland schoolboys on a number of occasions.

The players will be taken under the wing of development coach Craig Easton.

The club is still seeking contributions to Player Development Fund, which helps finance the development squad.

Details on how to set up a standing order can be found at www.raithrovers.net/player-development-fund.